Is Diego Costa's return the cause of Griezmann's resurrection in form?

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Is Diego Costa's return the cause of Griezmann's resurrection in form?


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If it wasn't for Barcelona's efficient brilliance domestically this season which has seen Lionel Messi and co build a sizable lead at the top of the La Liga table and maintain a thus far unbeaten start, Atletico Madrid would probably be heading towards a second league title in four years.

Diego Simeone's side have continued to be as resolute as they have been at any stage under his tutelage and with Diego Costa now back where he wants to be and Antoine Griezmann finding form with seven goals in his last two games (including four goals against Leganes on Wednesday night), it looks like they have second place sown up.

But could they spring a late surprise on Barcelona during the run-in to the end of the season? 

They do find themselves just four points behind the Catalan club, albeit having played a game more, but they have a chance to put real pressure on Barcelona when they visit the Nou Camp on Sunday.

Whether the points gap stands at seven, five or four ahead of that clash, Atletico are a real threat.

Our European football correspondent Graham Hunter joined Nathan to give us his take on a very pivotal week in the La Liga title race and why Griezmann is suddenly finding form.

"What happened absolutely demonstrably in the first chunk of the season wasn't simply that Diego Costa was unavailable because of Atleti's ban on registering and playing new players. It was because Griezmann had made his mind up in the summer to join Manchester United, changed his mind at the last moment for a combination of circumstances," Graham explained.

Atletico de Madrid Saul Niguez, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Gabi Fernandez and Thomas Teye during La Liga match between Atletico de Madrid and Athletic Club and Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid , Spain. February 18, 2018. (Photo by BorjaB.Hojas/Alter Photos/Sipa USA)

"Griezmann absolutely looked around him at a point where he knew when he made that decision that Costa wasn't available until January. I think what he didn't know was how it would affect him in terms of his intensity and what he didn't know was that probably his favourite strike partner Kevin Gameiro who - I mean no disrespect to Costa because their partnership is working [and] Gameiro's being kept on the bench and Costa's growing on the Atleti fans again - but Gameiro is the one with whom Griezmann functions best."

But with Gameiro working back from injury, Graham adds that he "wasn't trusted by Cholo Simeone until mid-December".

"That robbed supply and a strike partner from Griezmann. Things weighed on Griezmann's shoulders in that he was unsure if he was now in a competitive team," said Graham.

"He regretted the idea of staying. He couldn't get that thorn out of his side."

While the goals dried up in the first half of the season, Graham explains that "Costa being by his side has helped" but that also there are other contributory factors.

"Really what's happened truthfully, Nathan, is that we're seeing Griezmann not only back and resurrected and in terms of his efficiency in front of goal, he's currently at his best form ever," he said, also pointing out the French international's smarter all round game in recent months and improving supply lines from midfield and full back.

In the full chat on the podcast player, Graham also discussed the speculation linking Griezmann with Barcelona, whether there's a chance of staying at Atletico or if other clubs could take an interest.


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